Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 735. Thursday, 28 September 1995.
Date: Thursday, 28 Sep 1995 01:29:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Conversation in OTHELLO
Previously I posed a question to the readers of SHAKSPER regarding a student
production of OTHELLO I am currently directing at NYU. (Thanks again for the
comments!) Of course, as I rehearse with my wonderful cast (I condensed it to
an ensemble of ten; easy, since it has the fewest characters of any play, I
think) questions arise daily: I thought I would again ask for your theories and
ideas regarding the text.
Something I am noticing about the play is the fact that a good number of the
scenes begin in mid-conversation. I am curious about the implications of this
decive. Is it one Shakespeare often uses?
Unlike any other play (to my knowledge), OTHELLO, indeed, opens in
mid-conversation. Roderigo says, "Tush, never tell me," and immediately the
audience knows it is "left out," forced to figure out the secret, turned into
virtual eavesdroppers. Though the subject of their conversation is Othello, his
name is not actually mentioned until well into the scene. Later, other scenes
set out in this manner: Iago says to Othello in 1.2, "I had thought to have
yerk'd *him* here, under the ribs," and once again the audience must guess at
the subject of conversation. In 1.3, the Duke opens the scene the same way:
"There is no composition in *these news*." In 3.3, Desdemona's first line is,
"Be thou assur'd, good Cassio, I will do/ All my abilities in thy behalf."
These are just the first examples of this device in the play.
Why are so many scenes in OTHELLO structured like this? Is this a common device
in his plays? What are its possible dramatic meanings and how may that be
important in production?
I look forward to your observations....Thanks in advance.